By: Mark Glennon*
Surely this must be a parody, I thought when I first saw a story on it. A reader here sent me a link to something called FightBack!News. But I read it twice and plenty of other sources confirm it: The Chicago Teachers union has a delegation in Venezuela to show their solidarity with Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime.
Their goals are “to learn what they could from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, exchange views on effective education and to show solidarity with the students, teachers and social movements of Venezuela,” says the story.
Delegation members are personally sharing their wonderment at Venezuelan socialism on a blog called “Radical Educator Collective.” The communes they visited particularly impressed them.
They quoted a Venezuelan official saying communes make society less individualistic since groups of people are working together to decide their needs and how to work collectively towards solutions. “This is why Venezuela became a threat to the USA, wrote delegation member Sarah Chambers. “The USA does not want people to realize that another world is possible with justice and love.”
Chambers also wrote on Twitter that the delegation hadn’t seen a single homeless person during their trip. No mention that housing might be plentiful because over three million people have fled – about 10% of the population.
Among the wisdom they’ve acquired, according to the article, is that 75% of Venezuela’s budget goes to social programs. “What country in the world does that?” asked delegate Valeria Vargas. “In the USA, 50% of our budget goes to war.” She’s a math teacher, the article says, but maybe we should give her a break because 50% kinda sounds like the real number, which is 15%.
What about Venezuela’s rampant hunger, disease, childhood mortality, crime and despair that have filled headlines in recent years? Well, yes, there are “issues,” says the blog, but they all stem from American sanctions and meddling. “The mainstream news is right that there are some issues in Venezuela, but where they are wrong is who has created those issues,” it says.
What about how human rights organizations across the globe, from all political perspectives, have hammered the regime for its extrajudicial executions, attacks on journalists, harassment of human rights activists, horrible prisons, rampant corruption and more? No mention of that.
The CTU’s fondness for the Maduro regime clearly goes beyond the delegation members. This spring, the CTU Executive Board and House of Delegates each unanimously passed a resolution opposing “the invasion of Venezuela” and criticizing the United States and its allies for harassing the regime.
That delegate mentioned earlier, Sarah Chambers, is a CTU Executive Board Member. In 2017, the school district fired her for, as reported by WTTW,
“leaving her own classroom to barge into classrooms of other teachers and issue her own instructions to students, interfering with statewide tests, and participating in a scheme to remove and transport students without any chaperone who had cleared criminal background checks, without alerting school officials which students would be missing from class and which students were unaccounted for….”
However, she claimed she was fired in retaliation for other matters and the CTU got her reinstated, the union says.
Illinoisans outside of Chicago may laugh at all this, but they should know they’re helping pay for it. State taxpayers contributed $239 million to the Chicago teachers pension last year under the bailout legislation passed a couple years ago.
They’re in contract negotiations now, demanding more and threatening to strike.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the delegates asked their teacher counterparts in Venezuela how their salaries and pensions compare to theirs in America? In Chicago, their average final salary is $98,000 and average annual pension after 30 years of service is $70,000. Not bad for about 165 days of work per year in a district that pays even the employee’s pension contribution.
The irony here is that the CTU’s extreme politics are matched by the extreme simplicity of how Illinois could not only bury the CTU but solve all the school district’s financial and pension problems. Just reconstitute it, which we’ve explained before. Start a new school district, take only the good teachers and assets from the old. Go forward with a new retirement plan that’s affordable, giving the district a fresh start, and keep CTU types the hell away from the kids.
But that would require legislation from Springfield where, as with so much else, there’s no political will to fix anything.
UPDATE 7/31/19: Chicago City Wire has now reported that CTU President Jesse Sharkey is in “hot water” as a result of the trip. According to their story, “A source within the CTU told Chicago City Wire that the trip was not approved by rank-and-file members of the union. Yet, it’s coming across on social media and Venezuelan state TV as a union sanctioned trip.” According to their source, “Sharkey claims the teachers went ‘on vacation as individuals,’” the source wrote in an email. “This is patently untrue, as they raised money in our union’s name, blogged in our name, met with Maduro’s government [Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro] in CTU’s name, and spoke with media in our name.”
UPDATE 8/8/19: This story has now been picked up by many national outlets.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
Read more about the CTU, its contract demands, and how Mayor Lightfoot should respond: